The Holy Spirit in the Life of Jesus
9/9/2019 3:36:21 AM
Matthew 1:18-20; Luke 1:24-45
Sept 8, 2019
Rev. David Williams
Who here wants to live by the Spirit? The goal of this series is not just to teach us all about the Spirit, as good as that is. The real goal of the Spirit is to help us develop and understand what it means to live by the Spirit, to live a Spirit-filled life and to walk with the Spirit. That’s what we trying to figure out. And in order to figure out what it means to live by the Spirit or live a Spirit-filled life, we have to first set a foundation of knowledge about the Spirit himself! The more we know about the Spirit, the better we will be at identifying and recognizing authentic movements of the Spirit today. We will also develop a filter for when people claim the Holy Spirit is at work when He is not!
Today we are looking at the work or role of the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus. If anybody ever lived a Spirit-filled life, it was Jesus! In another context, we’ve talked about the goal of the Christian life is to have our hearts, our characters, transformed so that we are more like Jesus. If the Spirit is working in us to make us more like Jesus, then it makes sense to look at how the Spirit was at work in and around Jesus’ life!
Christmas is all about Jesus. At Christmas, we talk about the birth of Christ and rightfully so. The main characters are Mary, Joseph, the angel Gabriel, some shepherds and wise men. If we go really deep, we talk about Zechariah, Elizabeth and John the Baptist. But you know which character is missing from our Christmas discussions, stories and plays? The Holy Spirit! But the Spirit is actually quite involved in the Christmas story. He’s named repeatedly and his fingerprints are all over the narrative.
The Holy Spirit was intimately involved in the birth of Jesus. Before Jesus’ birth, Zechariah was in the temple offering incense in the Holy of Holies when the Angel Gabriel appeared to him and told him that his aged wife would conceive and bear a son named John who, among other things, “will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.” [Lk 1:15]
After John’s birth, when Zechariah received back his hearing and speech, we are told “Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied…” And then Luke records Zechariah’s hymn of praise for the salvation God was bringing. [Luke 1:67ff]
But between the time the angel foretold John the Baptist’s birth and Zechariah’s prophetic song, other important things were happening too. Let’s turn to two familiar passages, but let’s examine them looking for the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18-20 and Luke 1:34-45
The Birth of Jesus
Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth is told from the perspective of Joseph and it is remarkably brief!
We are told that Joseph was engaged to Mary, which in that culture was as legally binding as marriage. The dowry and bride price had been paid! Joseph was spending a year setting up a house for them to live in.
With remarkable brevity, Matthew says, “but before they came together, [Mary] was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Wow! Ever wonder how the incarnation happened? The Incarnation happened through the Holy Spirit. Jesus, the Son of God, the 2nd person of the Trinity, became a human being through the Holy Spirit!
Joseph, however, wasn’t in on this plan. He had no idea. So, being a man in a good relationship with God (righteous) he planned to divorce Mary quietly to avoid the risk of her being publically humiliated, tried and potentially executed! [As a side note, we see that a quiet divorce can be a righteous response to infidelity!]
Then an angel (seemingly after the fact…) appeared to Joseph in a dream. Notice he said, “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife….” It can be frightening to participate in what the Holy Spirit is doing! The angel had to encourage Joseph, to literally give him courage, to go along with what the Holy Spirit was doing in Mary and Joseph’s lives! Because remember, Mary wasn’t the only one affected by this- Joseph was going to be a dad- the dad of the Messiah, the King of Kings, the Son of God! That’s a tall order!
Joseph, being a righteous man, obeyed the angel, took Mary as his wife and Jesus as his son. And it was quite a ride! They had to travel to Bethlehem for Jesus’ birth. There they met shepherds and magi, then they had to flee for their lives to Egypt because of the baby! Even after the angel appeared to Joseph, and after Joseph took Mary as his wife, it was still frightening to participate in what the HS was doing!
Speaking of being frightened at the prospect of participating in what the Holy Spirit is doing, let’s consider now Mary’s experience as described in Luke 1. The angel has told her she will be with child and that the child will be the Son of the Most High and he will be given the throne of David, etc. Mary’s response was not one of disbelief, like Zechariah’s was when he was told Elizabeth would conceive, but rather one of confusion. She was still a virgin and she knew where babies come from!
Again, we see the role of the Holy Spirit in the incarnation: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
We see the creative and life giving power of the Holy Spirit from Genesis at work in Mary. Remember we saw the Spirit at work in creation, hovering over the deep like a mother bird. Then God created man and woman in his image, which in Genesis 2 is described in further detail as God breathing the breath of life into Adam. Breath and Spirit are the same word! So, with the first Adam, the Spirit is at work creating the raw material for his body, and then in giving him life blowing into him. Here, in Mary’s womb, the second Adam is given a body and new life begins in Mary.
The one born would be “called” the Son of God, not would “become” the Son of God. Jesus’ deity, his status as Son of God, already existed. “But, as a result of his supernatural conception He will, in His humanity, reveal Himself as a diving Being; and for this reason, too, He will be acknowledged as such and will be called Son of God.” [Norval Geldenhuys, Luke, p. 77] Notice, as well, the fulfilment of God’s promise from Genesis 3 that the one to crush the serpent’s head would be the offspring of Eve, not Adam!
Once again, the Holy Spirit works in an individual for the salvation of God’s people. Last week we looked at numerous examples, including Joseph in Egypt and a number of judges who were filled with the Spirit for the specific purpose of delivering God’s people from danger. Now, in Mary, the Holy Spirit is at work in an unprecedented way to bring a salvation for God’s people from the greatest danger of all- sin and eternal separation from God!
Many great turning points in salvation history are begun by God’s miraculous intervention in a child’s conception. (Isaac, Jacob, Samson, Samuel, etc) [Frederick Dale Bruner, Matthew 1-11, p. 21] Here, at the climax of salvation history, God intervenes in two women conceiving children! Mary in the virgin birth and her relative Elizabeth conceiving in her old age. Mary takes Gabriel’s hint to go visit Elizabeth who would be able to empathize with an angelic birth announcement!
When Mary arrived, John leapt in Elizabeth’s womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit! John already, even in the womb, begins his role as a forerunner announcing the arrival of Jesus!
The Spirit gave Elizabeth supernatural enlightenment to know Mary was with child and the nature of that child. [Geldenhuys, p. 82] She knows Mary is pregnant early on in her term, and she knows the baby Mary carries is blessed and her Lord. Elizabeth prophesied- she spoke forth the word of God through the power of the Holy Spirit, and she praised God for what he was doing! These are two key markers of the presence of the Spirit- God’s word is declared and His name is praised!
The Ministry of Jesus
Wow! That was a lot! The Spirit is all over the nativity story! The Spirit was at work in the incarnation- creating a material body for the second member of the Trinity! The Spirit was at work in the people around Jesus too, his parents and his relatives: Zechariah, Elizabeth and John. But what about the Spirit in Jesus himself?
The most famous example is Jesus’ baptism. This is one of the few events that is described in all 4 Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John! And in all 4 we are told that the Spirit of God descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove.
The Spirit descended on Jesus to commission and empower him for his ministry. Up to this point, Jesus showed remarkable knowledge as a child, but the power to perform miracles, etc. came to him when he was empowered by the Spirit at his baptism. At his baptism, Jesus was identifying himself with God’s people, Israel. At the same time, the Spirit came to empower him to fulfil his mission of salvation.
Notice the very next thing that happened after the Spirit empowered Jesus- The Spirit led Jesus to the wilderness! It is no contradiction to be filled with the Spirit and experience difficulties at the same time. And yet it was the filling of the Spirit that empowered Jesus to defeat Satan 3 times, to resist temptation, to stay true to God when presented with easier options!
How many people here have every been through hard times and wondered where God was? How many have ever been obedient to God, followed his lead, and wound up in the wilderness? Sometimes it is the very Spirit of God that has brought you there, as part of filling you, so that you will be honed and shaped, so that you will cling to God more and be a more mature child of God!
After his wilderness experience, Jesus returned to Galilee filled with the Spirit to begin his ministry. Sometimes it is when we have seen God provide for us in the desert times that we are prepared, empowered, matured and invigorated for ministry! After his testing, Jesus’ Spirit-filled ministry was powerful and word spread about him.
The primary ministry of the Spirit is to declare and glorify Jesus. (John 16:14) [Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, p. 863] So, when filled with the Spirit, Jesus starts his ministry, that Spirit-power serves to declare who Jesus is and glorify him! Later in his ministry, Jesus sends out the 72. When they return with joy and report to Jesus their success, Jesus is “filled with joy through the Holy Spirit!(Luke 10:21) Then he declares the glory of the Father.
The final aspect of Jesus’ ministry I want to consider is the climax of his work on earth! His death and resurrection! The Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead. Romans 8:11 refers to the power of the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead which now lives in us! 1 Peter 3:18 says that Jesus was made alive (again) by the Spirit! So the power that worked in Jesus’ dead body to transform it and bring it new life was the power of the Spirit!
Now, that’s not the whole story. We are also told that Jesus laid his life down of his own accord and took it up again. Also, Galatians 1:16 says that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead. So the whole Trinity was involved in the resurrection! But we must remember that the Spirit was involved too.
Wow. The Holy Spirit was all over the birth, ministry and even resurrection of Jesus! Very cool! So what? Remember, our goal is to learn how we, too, can live Spirit-filled lives. So let’s look at some of what the Spirit did in and around Jesus and apply it to us.
Only the Spirit can bring Christ inside a person. Now, we are never going to have Christ physically inside us like Mary did, but whether physically or spiritually, only the Spirit bring Christ inside a person. Romans 8:11, which mentions that the Spirit’s power raised Jesus from the dead, goes on to say that same power is at work in us who believe. Our belief is a work of the Spirit in us. Jesus living inside us, (Evangelicals often speak of asking Jesus into our hearts/lives) is a result of the Spirit’s work. The Spirit of Life is the bringer of new life. The Spirit created life at the dawn of creation. He brings new life, life from above, to those who put their faith in Jesus too. Why? Because that’s his role, that’s his power, that’s the work he does.
The Spirit gives courage to participate in the work of God. Like Joseph and Mary, the Spirit gives us courage to cooperate with God’s plan, to move forward in the face of danger, to move forward in the face of rejection and shame, in order to cooperate with God and be obedient to Him. The Spirit empowered Mary to believe and obey. This is in marked contrast to Zechariah who didn’t believe! (Notice E’s comment “blessed is she who believed!)
Do you have courage to move forward when the work is hard? Ask God!
The Spirit produces fruit in people’s character. The Spirit produced fruit in Elizabeth- both joy and peace! Elizabeth had a tremendous birth announcement, but Mary’s was even greater! But was Elizabeth jealous? Did she worry Mary would steal her thunder? Or push aside her own child? No! How do you respond when you hear somebody else’s good news? Do you get your back up? Do you feel jealous? Or can you celebrate the blessings another receives that are greater than your own?
The Spirit empowers people to recognize Jesus for who He is. John, in utero, and Elizabeth were empowered by the Spirit to recognize Jesus in Mary’s womb. They were the first examples of many! It is the Spirit who opens our eyes to see Jesus for who He is and to respond to Him rightly.
The Spirit also empowers us to proclaim Jesus for who He is too! Elizabeth spoke forth the word of God about who Mary was carrying. The Spirit’s primary ministry is to point people to Jesus and glorify Him!
Do you recognize Jesus for who He is? Have you accepted him as your Lord yet? Do you declare who he is to other people? Do you glorify him with your words?
The Spirit that gave Jesus’ body life at birth and at the Resurrection, is at work in us bringing new life too. This is the greatest encouragement I can offer you today! Do you want abundant life? Do you want the life of the Spirit? If you’ve accepted Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, if you’ve invited him to be in charge of your life, then the Spirit is already dwelling within you. The question, then, is not “how to I get the Spirit?” but “How do I cooperate with the Spirit I already have?” What can you do to cooperate with the Spirit living in you, so that His fruit and power are more evident in your life? Amen.
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